Many criminal defense attorneys, especially those of us who regularly defend in traffic cases, have long recognized the value of the reports generated by LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System). Our clients benefit from the disclosure of LEADS information in criminal and traffic cases because LEADS provides specific data regarding a subject’s criminal and traffic history that is neither a matter of public record nor accessible via other, independent means.
The data provided by LEADS is managed by the Ohio Highway Patrol, and the system draws from information gathered by the NCIC (National Crime Information Center), BCI (the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation), and NLETS (National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System). The reports include the subject’s full traffic history (both intrastate and interstate, and in greater detail than that provided by the BMV); a record of the subject’s prior arrests, irrespective of final case disposition; a record of any past/present temporary or civil protection orders issued against the subject pursuant to R.C. §§ 2903.213, 2903.214, 2919.26, or 3113.31; and the subjects CCW history and current status, among other things.
LEADS reports give us helpful and necessary information about our clients’ pasts, but they can be useful for other purposes as well – for example, to impeach certain witnesses. Prosecutors have historically resisted the production of LEADS reports in the course of discovery under Criminal Rule 16, often citing the inadvertent disclosure of sensitive, personally-identifying information of the subject(s) as the reason.
This practice by prosecutors was permissible until March of 2018 when S.B. 33, codified in Ohio Revised Code § 5503.101, took effect. In light of its provisions, prosecutors are no longer permitted to withhold LEADS reports from discovery in traffic or criminal cases when requested in accordance with the statute and provisions of Criminal Rule 16, nor may law enforcement deny access to LEADS information when it is sought pursuant to a lawful discovery request.
Per R.C. § 5503.101, Disclosure of LEADS information to defendant, information obtained via LEADS “may be disclosed to the defendant and the defendant’s counsel when formally requested pursuant to the rules of discovery in a traffic or criminal case.”
While subsection (C) of § 5503.101 allows the prosecutor to request court-ordered redaction of personally-identifying or sensitive information of any witness, law enforcement officer, or prosecutor, “[t]he fact that information sought in discovery is contained in [LEADS] shall not be cited or accepted as a reason for denying discovery to the defendant of the defendant’s own traffic or criminal record,” per R.C. § 5503.101(G).
The statute further shields prosecutors (and their agents) against civil or criminal liability for the disclosure of LEADS reports “in a manner authorized by [R.C. § 5033.101].”
The language of recently-enacted R.C. § 5503.101 is clear and unequivocal – LEADS reports are now among the material discoverable to defendants and their attorneys under Criminal Rule 16, and the statute offers prosecutors and law enforcement adequate protections against prospective liability for their lawful disclosure.
For more information about S.B. 33 and R.C. § 5503.101, you can review the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s bill analysis here.